Building Autonomy in Children’s Actions

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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“The University of Arizona elaborates on the topic of autonomy, “Responsibility and independence are developed through the gradual expansion of freedom, along with the connection between children’s actions and appropriate consequences, provides children with opportunities to develop independence and responsibility for their lives.” Kids learn vital life lessons by experiencing the consequences of their action, yet learning to be accountable. In the memoir The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, her parents, Rex and Mary Rose, believe in the life that is full of adventures and that their kids should not be burdened with rules so they “skedaddle” through life.

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Through the years, Jeannette starts to notice the absence of her parents causing the pressure of her family to fall on her and her siblings’ shoulders forcing her to make crucial decisions with the aftermath to follow. Being independent lets the author learn beneficial lessons of responsibility while facing tough choices due to lack of parenting, affecting the decision she will have to make in the near future regarding her family. Forcing kids to be independent influences the decisions they will make in the future because making mistakes while they’re young, enables them to understand the importance of being responsible and independent.

Nomadic life of Walls family caused unstable environment for kids to grow up in; which forced Jeannette and her siblings to mature faster; as well as, establishing independence at the young age. Through the years neither Rose Mary nor Rex are able or even want to keep a steady job, rather prefer to run away from the responsibilities of parenthood. Therefore, both of Jeannette’s parents are well educated, after renewing her teaching degree, Rose Mary announces that she “intended to quit her teaching job and devote herself to her art”(218). Arguing with her mother’s point of view, Jeannette speaks her mind, “‘You can’t quit your job,’ I said. ‘We need the money.’
‘Why do I always have to be the one who earns the money?’ ‘You have a job. You can earn money. Lori can earn money, too. I’ve got more important things to do.’”

Irritated by her mom’s naive excuses, Jeannette snaps back, “‘ If you want to be treated like a mother,’ I said ‘you should act like one”(219). Despite the love for her mother, Jeannette despises the way she chooses to live her life because she said she is tired of living a life for other people, making Jeannette questing her mother’s intentions. Growing up in a toxic environment filled with mistrust and running away from responsibilities, the author only learned to look at the mistakes made by her parents and make sure she will not make them. With no choice left, besides to provide for the family by earning money herself, Jeannette realizes how much responsibility is important by learning from mistakes and experience.

Growing up without restricting changed my perspective of being accountable for my actions and the growth of my independence. As I look back at my past, I see the mistakes that I have made, but also the lessons I have learned that taught me to evaluate my decisions before making them. To most kids independence doesn’t mean a lot of thing; besides, choosing an outfit they desire or ordering food for themselves at a restaurant. Similarly, I was limited to my independence due to my age, but I still have a vivid memory of my mom finally letting go of my hand and sending me of to school by myself. In second grade, my mom decided it was time for me to walk to school alone, which was 15 minutes away. Even though my head was spinning and I was terrified, my mom reassured me that it’s for my own good to learn to be self-sufficient. She said it was one of the lesson every child has to learn; confidence is built by trial and error, also building up your independence as a result.

Besides the absence of both her parents through Jeanette’s childhood, Rex and Rose Mary teach her valuable life lessons that make Jeannette question things. Therefore both Lori and Brian knew how to swim, Jeannette would cling to the side of the pool or stay in the shallow. One day, Rex decided it was the day to teach Jeannette how to swim but instead of quietly explaining it, he threw her up in the air and allowed her sink into the river: calling out, “Sink or swim”(66)! At that point after continues drownings, realization took hold of Jeannette, “rather than reaching for Dad’s hands, I tried to get away from them”(66). Rex’s excuse for his vague behavior was it was just a lesson every parent has to teach, “‘If you don’t want to sink, you better figure out how to swim”(66). Rex wasn’t just talking about learning to swim, he was referring to real life situation that Jeannette might have to deal in the future: it wasn’t just a swimming lesson, it was a life lesson. At last, t’s better for Jeannette to learn to stand up for herself now while she’s young and has room for mistakes because in the adulthood every action has its very own consequence. Starting to realize what her father is trying to say, the author starts to question his intentions with her. Generally parents try to teach their kids a worthwhile lesson at a young age while they still have influence over them, so in forthcoming future they are able to use their consumed knowledge.

Moving around opens a door for new possibilities while striking with new struggles and challenges, meanwhile still generating a life lesson. However I grew up with one parent in the house, I alway kept in touch with my father, so when my mother announced we were moving to a different country, I was ecstatic but also filled with regrets of never establishing a real relationship with my dad. For most of my childhood, 11 years, I called Ukraine my home, but never would I have guessed that I was going to have a new home. At first I was intimidated by the new surrounding because i couldn’t understand what was happening around me, but as I eased into it, I saw the benefits of it. Life is an adventure and moving to a new atmosphere shift your perspective of the world. In my eyes, the new environment I moved to was a strange thing for me because at that moment I wasn’t mentally prepared for what I was facing, but I as I adopted to the new community; I felt like home again.

Kids who are exposed to independence throughout childhood are able to evaluate their decisions precisely as an adult because they were able to learn from previous mistakes. Jeannette and I both grew up to be self- sufficient due to experiencing the aftermath of our choices and learning to take responsibility. Furthermore, we both learned a significant life lessons from our decision that lead us to realizing our possibilities and but also showing our flaws. Kids are more likely to succeed in life if they experience the effect of responsibility and independence at a young age, but also learn vital life principals.”

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Building Autonomy in Children's Actions. (2021, Apr 10). Retrieved from